Tag Archives: Baltimore

Baltimore’s DOJ police consent decree

Yesterday the city of Baltimore signed a 227-page consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice putting the city’s police department under wide-ranging federal control for the indefinite future (earlier).

The decree (document; summary of high points) mingles some terms that rise to genuine constitutional significance with others that no court would have ordered, and yet others that appear not to be requirements of the law at all, but at most best practices. Many are virtually or entirely unenforceable (“professional and courteous” interaction with citizens). Whether or not the decree results in the less frequent violation of citizens’ rights, it is certain to result in large amounts of new spending and in the extension of the powers of lawyers working for various parties.

In November David Meyer Lindenberg of Fault Lines, the criminal justice website, wrote this opinion piece about the failure of DoJ police reform consent decrees to live up to the high claims often made for them (more: Scott Shackford, Reason). Our consent decrees tag traces the problems with these devices in a variety of public agencies such as those handling children’s and mental health services, as well as the budgetary rigidity they often impose.

Since Congress passed enabling legislation in 1994 in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, the Washington Post and Frontline reported in a 2015 investigation, “Twenty-six [police] investigations — a little more than half of them since President Obama took office — have led to the most rigorous outcome: binding agreements tracked by monitors. More than half were consent decrees, meaning they were approved and managed in federal court.” As of that point only Ohio, at 4 agreements, had had more than Maryland, at 3.

This 2008 report from the Alabama Policy Institute by Michael DeBow, Gary Palmer, and John J. Park, Jr. takes a critical view of the decrees’ use in institutional reform litigation (not specifically police), and comes with a foreword by Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the nominee to replace Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the U.S. Speaking of which, there’s something so weird about some liberals’ eagerness to hand the keys to big-city police departments over to Mr. Sessions. It’s as if they think once Main Justice is calling the shots it won’t think of using that leverage on issues like, say, sanctuary cities.

[cross-posted from Overlawyered. Note also Reuters’ new investigation of police union contracts, and related coverage in the Baltimore Sun (McSpadden case), Ed Krayewski/Reason (three years to fire misbehaving cop), and more Sun (deadly effects of police slowdown)]

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In miniature, January 4

  • May 2015 work slowdown by Baltimore police may have led to long-term higher crime rate [Daniel Bier/FEE, Alex Tabarrok/Marginal Revolution] “11 Incredible Findings from the Report on Baltimore PD” [Bier, FEE]
  • Claim: lawmakers can “give” private employees paid parental leave and “there’s no added cost to employers” [Kate Ryan, WTOP citing views of Montgomery County, Maryland council member Tom Hucker]
  • Irony alert: Get-money-out-of-politics measure passes 53-47 in Howard County after backers outspend foes 10-1 [Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter]
  • “FBI fingerprinting for Uber and Lyft in Maryland would do more harm than good” [Washington Post letter to editor from Arthur Rizer, R Street Institute]
  • “Economist: Baltimore Minimum Wage Bill Punishes Small Business Growth” [Connor Wolf]
  • Major overhaul of state contracting proposed, along with hundreds of changes to regulations [Maryland Reporter]

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LEOBR reform not going well this session

Supposed reforms to Maryland’s notorious Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) law could leave police unions with even more power than now [Washington Times, Washington Post] ACLU of Maryland report on how the law, along with the Baltimore police union contract, serve as obstacles to officer accountability [press, more] Last year, the filing of charges in the Freddie Gray case “enraged the police rank and file, who pulled back” from arrests and engagement with lethal consequences for the Baltimore crime rate; but was the work-to-rule really based on a well-founded fear of being prosecuted over good police practice? [Richard Oppel/New York Times, NYT “Room for Debate” and more, Alex Tabarrok/Marginal Revolution]

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My letter in the Washington Post on Baltimore evictions

I’ve got a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post. An excerpt:

The Dec. 11 Metro article “Baltimore eviction rate among highest in nation” reported on advocates’ efforts to change eviction procedures to allow Baltimore tenants to stay longer in rental housing even when they fail to pay their rent. One effect, of course, would be to make it even less attractive to offer and maintain rental properties in the hard-hit city.

Before going farther down such a road, it would help to review failures of existing Maryland housing policies….

And then I talk about Maryland lawmakers’ having enacted various legal changes to slow down foreclosures, and the unpleasant aftermath, a story told here. Why would a state want to go through a very similar wasteful, blight-encouraging exercise for rental property?

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“Efforts to label the riots an ‘uprising’…”

“…will strike the same voters as hopelessly out of touch (read: insane).” [David Lublin, The Seventh State (“Democrats Must Address Baltimore or Drown Politically in the Undertow”)]

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In miniature, June 18

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Cut Baltimore property taxes

For any real chance for Baltimore to bounce back economically, you need to cut its high property taxes. Reihan Salam argues the case, drawing on work by Stephen Walters (Loyola Maryland) and others. As a percentage of value Baltimore’s property taxes are not as extraordinarily high as Detroit’s, but in both cities the tax has contributed to severe problems of property abandonment.

From a Facebook discussion, Bruce Godfrey:

One other effect of Baltimore city’s high property taxes is the disproportionate concentration of nonprofit organizations in the city. These nonprofits are exempt not only from income taxes on their operations, but every asset they own is exempt from the state real estate and personal property taxes, which are more than twice those of the county surrounding it.

More: Lengthy new piece on Baltimore abandonments by Washington Post reporter Terrence McCoy never mentions property taxes. So they must not be a problem!

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In miniature, May 8

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“Probable cause from a Baltimore police officer has always been a tenuous thing….”

What went wrong with police-community relations in Baltimore, and are there any hopes for improvement? I liked David Simon’s interview on this subject so well that I edited it down into a sort of highlights reel in a Cato at Liberty post. (cross-posted from Overlawyered).

I’ve also posted lately at Overlawyered and Cato on the economics of how riots occur; in this roundup, on the very harmful aftermath of the 1960s riots for the labor market in affected communities; and in this post, on knife law, the filing of charges against six BPD officers in the death of Freddie Gray, and the union’s response (“none…are responsible.”) And this flashback: “At least twelve Baltimore cops sought workers’ comp for stress after using deadly force on citizens [Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun/Carroll County Times] I was a guest on the national Leslie Marshall show Monday, guest-hosted by Newsweek opinion editor Nicholas Wapshott, on the topic of Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (on which here, here, etc.).

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In miniature, April 29

  • “There was no repeat of Monday’s violence.” There’s your story. [Washington Post, on Baltimore picking itself up after the riot] “I wish humanity didn’t have to resort to violence to get its point across. However….” Really, Del. Morales? [Del. Maricé Morales (D-Montgomery County) on Facebook, quoted at Seventh State]
  • Police van “rough rides,” meant to injure arrestees, led to Philadelphia, Chicago scandals. And Baltimore? [BuzzFeed, Baltimore Sun]
  • Duly noted: 15 Democratic members of state senate would like to gut the First Amendment on campaign speech [Rebecca Lessner, Maryland Reporter]
  • H.L. Mencken spins in grave as Baltimore Sun adopts tut-tutting editorial view of alcohol;
  • Maryland GOP coming along only slowly on marijuana law reform; at least eight Republican lawmakers voted for this term’s very modest paraphernalia bill, so +1 for Sen. Justin Ready and Dels. Carl Anderton, Mary Beth Carozza, Robert Flanagan, Robin Grammer, Herb McMillan, Christian Miele, and Chris West [Van Smith, City Paper, interviewing former Del. Don Murphy]
  • “Martin O’Malley’s Terrible Fiscal Record” [Chris Edwards, Cato]

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